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Local high school program for pregnant, parenting students considered for relocation

The Calgary Board of Education is taking another step toward closing the school site of a unique program that provides high school education and childcare for pregnant teens and young moms.

The Louise Dean Centre operates out of a 75-year-old building in the northwest community of West Hillhurst, but board officials have proposed the school and its operations move to the Jack James High School, in the southeast community of Forest Lawn.

The public school board voted on Tuesday to put the proposal to a public consultation process.

There are 47 students at the Louise Dean Centre.


One graduate of the program says there are concerns about moving to a new location and sharing a building with another high school.

"It just does not make any sense. It's just a higher risk. There are moms in strollers and busses and we don't want out kids to be exposed to that type of environment," said Andrea Hernandez-Urbina.

She enrolled at Louise Dean School when her son, Isa Malik Aubry, was two months old. She completed her high school diploma last May.

She says the school's strong sense of community would suffer with a change of location.

"We're all teen moms we all have the same goal and it's sad knowing that the school will have to shut down and transfer to another school," she said.

Hernandez-Urbina, now an eyelash extension artist, credits the centre for additional counselling and family skills courses.


Kindred, which operates childcare services and also provides courses and counselling at Louise Dean Centre, says the school's needs have changed over the 50-year partnership.

"The overall rate of teen pregnancy in Alberta is declining. So we are seeing a corresponding decline in the number of students that we're able to serve," said Jessica Cope Williams, co-CEO of Kindred.

She added, "it's an opportunity for us to re-evaluate what are the best ways that we can respond to the changing trend and continue meet the needs of young parents."

In an emailed statement on Wednesday, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says "the potential move of the Louise Dean program to Jack James High School will increase academic opportunities for both students and their partners, as well as continued support from our partners."

It continued, "if the proposed relocation is approved, staff from Louise Dean Centre, Jack James High School, Kindred and AHS will work together during the 2023-24 school year to ensure personalized and individual transition plans are created for each student. These plans will address their learning, supports, and safety within the new environment."


Board officials said the current site built in 1947 needs $17 million in repairs, while the renovations to the Jack James High School building are estimated to cost $5.6 million, during a public meeting on Tuesday.

The proposal would see a section of the building equipped with hardware providing sole access to Louise Dean students and staff, and potentially parental partners.

The renovation plan also includes a childcare centre, a new outdoor play area, medical exam rooms, expanded counselling offices and classrooms among other changes.

As well, board officials say the relocation would cut travel time for the majority of students who live in the south or northeast.

"We were looking for closer proximity to where students reside, to reduce travel times," said Dany Breton, CBE superintendent of facilities and environmental services.

"This location can continue to provide the individualized sheltered programming and supports available at the current location," said Andrea Holowka, CBE superintendent of school improvement.

The CBE statement adds:

"Forest Lawn is a community on the rise, the City of Calgary, Alberta Health Services, and other partners have poured a significant amount of resources into the redevelopment of the area. In the immediate Jack James High School Area is an Alberta Health Services Clinic. In addition the community houses a recently renovated public library, with child-friendly activities and access to the East Calgary Health Centre."

The additional 47 students would take the student population to 93 per cent of Jack James school capacity, according to the CBE board report public agenda for the Sept. 27 regular meeting.

The target set for relocation is the 2024-2025 academic year.

The CBE has applied to Alberta Education for capital funding for the relocation proposal. Top Stories

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